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Want of employment renders the mind stagnant, vapid, and by degrees noxious to itself.
If the affections are violently set upon any thing in this world, whether fame, wealth, or pleasure, and are disappointed, then life becomes insupportable. Therefore the moral is this: "Set your affections on things above, "not on things on the earth."
Lunacy, though sometimes accidental or natural, is generally artificial: ungovernable appetites fill the vessels with gross humours, and if they settle in the head, they generate disorders in the mind. I do not suppose there ever was a well-governed mind in an ungoverned body: and mortification being now totally out of fashion in the world and exploded in religion (so far have we unhappily carried on reformation) there is more self-indulgenca than there used to be, and consequently the mind becomes distempered, and when vice co-operates, and inflamed passions are disappointed, lunacy succeeds, and ends in suicide. This is often the progress: the world is full of disappointment: he who would bear it well must reduce his passions, and he who w6uld do this must mortify his body. There is no other course. I have heard it observed in a Roman Catholic country, " that the fulness which intemperance breeds in the gentry is brought down by the meagre days of the week; and if that is not sufficient, when the Lent comes round, that it is sure to bring them into good order, good principles, resignation to the will of God in all things, and trust in his protection." God permits the troubles of the righteous, whose disappointments are productive of future good to pious men, and they then often live. Faith holds out a light in the darkest night of vexation, and hope raises the dejected spirit. They are not the passions of good people that lead to suicide, but of the proud, the vain, and irreligious; who take their comfort from this world, and it forsakes them.
Temperance is the next preservative: and to open the mind to some faithful friend, especially to a spiritual counsellor. When the mind is filled with some bad subject and overloaded, it must be relieved, as the body is when it is too full of bad blood.
Vanity and ungovemed passions breed extravagance; extravagance soon leads to distress and poverty: to remedy which they fly to gaming for a poor chance of mending their broken affairs, which becoming still worse by this dreadful expedient, desperation ensues, and self-murder is the end.
The doctrine of reprobation terrifies some ill-informed minds, who taking the notion of absolute unconditional predestination in a wrong sense, are driven to despair, and give themselves up as objects devoted to destruction; a most unhappy delusion, to remove which would require a discourse of itself; but here I can only touch upon it.
NOTE 2, Page 394.
Ignorant and ill designing people tell us, that suicide is no where forbidden in the Scripture. If it be not expressly forbidden, it is because it is not supposed, as being a thing to which there is no temptation; for no man hateth his own flesh; he is in danger of loving it over much ; when a man is forbidden to murder for robbery or revenge, to commit adultery, and to covet his neighbours' goods, there is the temptation of gaining or gratifying; and therefore there is something to be forbidden : but how strangely would it sound, if it were inserted into the commandments, “ thou shalt not put out thine own eyes 1” It would look as if the commandments were given for the benefit of fools and madmen; to whom no commandments can be of any service: and they that can argue in such a manner are surely no better.
NOTE 3, Page 395.
When a man is surrounded with danger, and knoweth not in his distress which way to turn himself; it may sound like foolishness to bid him sit still, but it is good doctrine, even the doctrine of God himself, by the prophet Isaiah, (xxx. 7.) their strength, says he, is to sit still: and it is very true; for when it comes to this, God is their strength ; and in that case they are sure to be delivered. There are situations, under which nothing can preserve the servants of God, but the faith and patience with which they wait upon him.
BECAUSE SENTENCE AGAINST AN EVIL WORK IS NOT EXECUTED SPEEDILV, THEREFORE THE HEART OF THE SONS OF MEN IS FULLY SET IN THEH TO DO EVIL. ECCLES. viii. 11.
If it were executed speedily—for instance, if every, man who committed a theft were immediately to lose the use of his right hand, there would be no such thing as theft in the world : but the honesty produced by such^a measure would be of little value, because it would be the effect of force; there would be no principle in it but that of fear; which is the principle of a slave; the same with that which keeps brute beasts in order. The works of men can be good or bad only so far as they are the works of the will, which is at liberty to chuse between good and evil. True religion assists the will of man, and works with it, but does not destroy it. Therefore sentence is not executed speedily against an evil work; but the punishment of it is generally suspended for a time, and the decrees of God in that respect are left to the contemplation of faith, which sees things as yet invisible. In some cases punishment is deferred for so long a time, that men persuade themselves it will never be executed: that there is no invisible judge of human actions; or, if there is, that he either careth not about them, or puts off" all punishment to another world: and that therefore men may act as they please in this world without any fear of the consequences. These are persons of a very untoward disposition of mind, and there is little hope of doing them much good: but if it were possible to open their eyes, they might judge in a different manner. I shall therefore attempt to prove in this discourse, that although God does not punish speedily, he punishes certainly. Sin and misery do so belong to one another, that they will meet together; in many cases much sooner than people are aware of: this is what I mean to shew by arguments taken from the nature of sin, from the records of holy Scripture, and from the opinions of good men.
The nature of sin is such (of some sins more than others) that it either carries its own punishment with it, or soon brings it. Among a list of unrighteous persons St. Paul places the drunkard, the fornicator, the covetous, and assures us, that such persons shall not inherit the kingdom of God: which is certainlytrue, because the kingdom of God can never bear what is contrary to its nature. But follow such persons for a while, and see what becomes of them in this world. Is there any misery in poverty? How much more miserable does it soon become if you add drunkenness to it! In honest poverty there is no shame; but the poor drunkard is all shame: he is a nuisance to himself and to the world. If the drunkard be rich, will that save him? How many such are carried off suddenly; some by distempers ; some by evil accidents ,some by fighting and contention! And they who may seem to be at a stand, as if they were in no danger, are slowly undermining their constitutions, or bringing *uin upon their affairs, and paving the way to 8 prison.
If you look into a jail, you see men sitting there pensive and in rags: that is their posture now: had you seen them a while ago, they were uttering shouts of riotous exultation among their profligate companions, as if no harm could possibly come to them. Then as to covetousness, which is the opposite vice, all the world agrees that it is a torment to itself, by giving to a covetous man the name of a miser or miserable one. To a man in a dropsy thirst is a tormenting part of the distemper. What he drinks never quenches it, but makes it worse: such is the appetite of the miser for wealth: what he gets never satisfies, but only increases the distemper of his mind. Evil trees will bear evil fruits. No thorn will produce grapes; no thistle or bramble will bear figs; so can no happiness arise out of sin. As men sow, they will reap; perhaps not to-day, nor to-morrow; but certainly, though not speedily: and you must have seen so many examples of this, that a doubt ought not to remain on your minds. Health may as well consist with poison, as peace and happiness with a sinful life: and if there were nothing to prove it but the natural effect of vice, that alone would be sufficient with wise men. But as all vice is disobedience, and disobedience against God, whose laws are transgressed by it, vice is not left to its natural effects, though they are sufficiently disastrous, but calls down various kinds of punishment from God. These judicial effects of sin bring us to the examples of the Scripture, which are to be found in every part of it. Cain the first murderer was not (as murderers are now) put to death immediately; but is that man under no punishment, who is condemned to constant terror of mind, and Vol. iv. D d